Prologue Magazine

“Stretch” Goals in Our New Strategic Plan

Spring 2014, Vol. 46, No. 1

By David S. Ferriero

Archivist of the United States​


A few months ago, it was my pleasure to sign off on a document that will guide the National Archives into a bold new future—our Strategic Plan for 2014 to 2018.

This is not a top-secret document for a few eyes only or a mandated report to be dropped into a manila folder in a gray file cabinet. You can read it at

The Strategic Plan is the National Archives and Records Administration's roadmap to the future, a 24-page document that spells out the four—yes, just four—simple yet dynamic goals that we will pursue over the next five years.

To develop this plan, we talked with our customers, staff, donors, stakeholders, and many others. I want to thank those of you who took the time to read our draft plan and provide informed comments.

The result is an ambitious plan—one that builds on the six outcomes of the transformation we have undergone in the past few years:

We will work as one NARA, not as component parts. We will be out in front in embracing the primacy of electronic information in all our work. We will foster a culture that results in an agency of leaders. We will turn NARA into a great place to work by empowering our staff, our most vital resource. We will focus on our customers and find ways to serve their needs more effectively. And we will be an open NARA—open to learn from others outside the government.

Some of the goals and initiatives in the new plan will not be fully achieved during this five-year planning cycle. What is important, however, is that the plan challenges and encourages our staff to stretch their vision. I want them to be bold, ambitious, and versatile, ready to try new ways and new initiatives to reach these goals:

  • Make access happen. This is the essence of what we do as the nation's recordkeeper. We plan to make accessible all of the born-digital records and as many of our 12 billion pages of traditional (paper) records as we can as quickly as we can digitize them—the most requested ones first. This is a lofty goal—a "stretch" goal indeed—but we need to have these kinds of goals to challenge us.
  • Connect with customers. We want to engage our customers in what we do and be an example of open government. That way, we can respond to their needs sooner and more effectively, whether it's a request for records, attending a workshop or exhibit at one or our facilities, or commenting on a proposed federal regulation.
  • Maximize NARA's value to the nation. As the steward of the nation's records, we lead the way for federal agencies to find more effective and less burdensome ways of managing, preserving, and making accessible the nation's records. I believe this work will, in turn, elevate the status of NARA—and the archival profession—in the public's eye.
  • Build our future through our people. We will support our staff first by improving our internal communications so that everyone is fully informed by one or more of the channels. And we will provide opportunities for training and education, mentoring, and cross-training so that everyone can find a career path at NARA that will ensure we have the skills we will need in the future.

This last goal is especially important. Key to the success of this Strategic Plan is our dedicated staff of more than 3,000, located in more than 40 facilities around the country.

The Archives staff is a diverse group of incredibly talented individuals who love what they do and do it well, which is one of the reasons I have such respect for them. People I meet in my travels often say that the Archives has some wonderful treasures in its vaults. Our greatest treasures, however, are the ones who go home at night—our staff. They will ensure the success of this plan.

We've established our goals, some of them "stretch" goals. Whether we reach these goals or not, what's most important now is that we begin the journey to reach them. Let us know how we're doing.

Join the Archivist at his own blog and visit the National Archives website.

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.